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Foreign Policy

Move Beyond Geopolitics, Build Common Prosperity

Nov 24, 2022

(This is Fu Ying’s speech at the Global Town Hall in Indonesia in early November, 2022)

This is a highlight moment for ASEAN, with the ASEAN Summit, the G20 Summit and the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting coming soon. By hosting these events, ASEAN will be able to demonstrate to the world its strong will and capability to unite the region and provide new impetus for the post pandemic recovery. 

In China, the Communist Party has just concluded its 20th National Congress and its report emphasized that: China is committed to the policy of opening to the outside world and pursuing mutually beneficial partnership. China’s growth will create new opportunities to the open global economy that delivers benefits to the peoples in the world. 

While the world is witnessing tough challenges, Indonesia and the other ASEAN countries have set a positive tone with such key messages as: “addressing challenges and recover together”, “open and inclusive development”.   

Now, let me turn to the topic of today’s Townhall which is about geopolitics. We’ve started to witness the return of the logic of geopolitics as security confrontation and military conflict are arising in front of our eyes. 

During the early stage of industrialization, countries fought for controlling geographic space and access to key resources. The concept of geopolitics offered the theoretical foundation for expansionism. Since territories and resources were limited, expansionism inevitably led to fights for sphere of influence and zero-sum competition, which even begot to wars, hot and cold. 

The post-Cold War period has witnessed unprecedented long peace and wide prosperity in most parts of the world, and the international politics were no longer dominated by geopolitics.

And, instead, they were reshaped by economic globalization. Countries have grown highly interdependent and transnational cooperation and economic integration have expanded without serious hindrance. The so-called “center-periphery” concept faded into the past. 

This has been the kind of environment in which China has grown from poverty. There is no reason to doubt that other countries like India, Indonesia, Vietnam and many others may catch up should the economic globalization continue. 

In recent years, the concept of geopolitics has again become a frequently used term to describe some of the international behaviors and their purposes. Europe for example is seen as engulfed in a severe geopolitical conflict caused by, to a large extent, a geo-security collision between Russia and the US led NATO. The Asia-Pacific region is also at risk of returning to the front-line of geopolitical conflict as the US is provoking “strategic competition” with China. 

I have good reason to believe that the majority countries in Asia want to see the momentum of peace and prosperity continue. They prefer not to be forced to “pick sides”, much less to allow the regional agenda be shifted from economic issues to military and security concerns. 

Then, what’s our way out? Could we move beyond the geopolitical thinking and keep on building common prosperity?

Or would we retrogress to geopolitical fight, terminating economic globalization amidst increasing threat of conflict and power rivalry which have been proven tragic by history. Asia-Pacific will probably be the first to make its choice at this major crossroad which the rest of the world is also approaching to. 

Many of you who know the recent history of the region are aware that, the success of Asia lies in its commitment to cooperation for common economic benefit while taking the security concerns to the negotiating table instead of resorting to confrontation. Countries have nurtured the sense of common security. And, a network of meticulously intertwined dialogues has been developed here, including those on political and security coordination and on functional cooperation. We call it an “open regionalism” around ASEAN centrality. Indeed, the Asian way of dealing with differences offers a valuable experience for the world. 

Here let me pay tribute to Mr. Hasjim Djalal, the senior Djalal, who played an important role by initiating the “Workshop on Managing Potential Conflicts in the South China Sea”, which I have attended many times. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of DOC. And as far as I know, the COC text is undergoing the second reading. 

China’s full participation in the regional affairs began simultaneously with its own reform and opening up drive, there is sincere hope among the Chinese people to see countries in the Asia-Pacific as well as in the world at large unite the efforts to explore the ways and means to counter the new challenges and to build a community of shared future for the mankind. 

So, to conclude, we should move beyond the narrow mindset of geopolitical thinking, and cope with external uncertainty with regional unity and promote global recovery with high-quality development and high-level cooperation. 

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